Patric Hornqvist said he was taken back when he got the call from Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford last September with the news that he would be traded to the Florida Panthers.
Hornqvist had to approve the trade and, initially, he did not.
Word leaked of the trade before Hornqvist approved it but he said after talking with Rutherford and Florida GM Bill Zito, decided to do it.
”Obviously when you get traded, there’s a little shock and you get emotional,” Hornqvist said Thursday morning before he takes on the Penguins for the first time as a member of the Panthers.
“I had a no-trade so I didn’t think they would trade me. But I’m not living in the past, I’m living in the right-now. Good things have happened for me and for Pittsburgh. I’m happy to be here and happy to be playing them.”
Hornqvist, obviously, fit in quite well for the Panthers and made an instant impact both on and off the ice.
A two-time Stanley Cup champ with the Penguins, Hornqvist helped change a culture battle the team had been fighting for years.
“I thought he had an immediate impact on the team. In the room, on the ice and in the gym,’’ Joel Quenneville said Wednesday morning. “He brings that intensity that is noticeable. He contests teammate in the right fashion. I thought that accountability between player-to-player was something that was appreciated from a coaching perspective. It helped out team grow.”
Thursday night, for the first time since the trade, Hornqvist will go against his former teammates.
Rutherford is gone and Mike Matheson, the defenseman Florida sent to the Steel City, is dealing with an injury and isn’t expected to play in what would have been his return to Sunrise.
After the morning skate Thursday, Hornqvist said it was going to be fun to see his old pals.
The trade, although it was just over one calendar year ago, feels like it came a lot longer ago.
That is a testament to how Hornqvist has fit in with the Panthers. It feels like he has been here a lot longer than 13 months.
“I didn’t get to play them last year because of Covid so it feels weird to be here in the first game back with a lot of fans and it being a new season,” said Hornqvist, who spent six seasons with the Penguins and scored the game-winning goal against Nashville in Game 6 to win the Pens’ second title in 2017.
”At the same time, it’s always fun to play against your old team, your teammates and friends. It’ll be fun. Last year, with the Covid situation and no fans, yeah, it feels longer than a year. It feels like a long time ago I was in Pittsburgh.”
Last year, Hornqvist went back to doing what he does and that is camping out in front of the net and causing lots of havoc.
“It is always great to have a guy like that,’’ Aaron Ekblad said last season. “I remember Tomas Kopecky a few years ago, I loved getting the puck to him at the net. I knew he would tip it in some way or form and it was going to go in. Same aspect. It’s huge for us, no doubt about it.”
In the first month of the season, Hornqvist had five goals and seven points in seven games. He would end with 14 goals and 32 points, finishing tied for fifth on the team in scoring despite missing 12 games due to injury.
In the playoffs, Hornqvist had two goals and five points in six games against the Lightning.
On Thursday, he will open up on the third line with rookie Anton Lundell and Frank Vatrano. It has been a productive line in the preseason and definitely has shown promise.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (1-0-0) AT FLORIDA PANTHERS (0-0-0)
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: 560-AM
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play
- All-time series: Pittsburgh leads 53-34-6, 4 ties
- Odds via Bovada.lv: Florida (PL -1.5) — (ML -175) — U/O 6.5
- Up next: New York Islanders at Florida, Saturday, 6 p.m.; Chicago Blackhawks at Pittsburgh, Saturday, 7 p.m.